Carla Denker of Plastica
“As a kid, I would play store,”Carla Denker says with a laugh. She stands in the middle of her store Plastica, a colorful and bright space full of many plastic and non-plastic objects. There are large Sweedish Savanne Rugs used as tapestries on a wall and Baggu bags and accessories awaiting to be filled with goods. Cesto baskets hold knitted animals and there are few toys that you can hop on. The rideable Rody’s stand watch from shelves but kindly tell you that you cannot ride them in store.
Plastica is a fun place—and Carla has made it this way. She’s a relaxed California woman who is quick to laugh and even quicker to talk about tennis, a current sporty obsession she’s been into. She opened the store in 1996 in Silver Lake, around Sunset Junction before it was Sunset Junction. The store moved to Los Feliz for a brief period and then came to West 3rd Street in 2000. The store and it’s circumstances are quite by chance as Carla never set out to do retail.
“I opened the store with a background in art and not business or retail at all,”she says. “It was more of a quick decision to open Plastica. It was spontaneous, I guess.”
“It was a very small space in the beginning, maybe half of what we have now,”she points out, clarifying that the current space was once two different storefronts. “We filled it with odds and ends and was never a hundred percent plastic objects like the name suggests. It was more of an idea related to the overall name of material and their saturated color. It’s about the objects and their form: it’s a general term—not a specific plastic. The name just popped into my head without me thinking too hard about it. It feels like an umbrella name but people take it very literally though, walking in and thinking everything will be made of plastic.”
The store features what Carla calls a “really eclectic mix”of goods from Europe and Los Angeles. Being on West 3rd Street, Carla finds that she and the store are in the middle of the city and able to share her plastic fantastic brand to more Angelenos. “Originally I was going to keep both the Eastside store and this Westside store,”she says. “I have friends who were over here who kept saying I had to move over here and that the area would be improving. At the time I opened this location, both stores overlapped for a bit and I weighed the options and found the West 3rd Street spot to be doing better—and it was fresher and newer for me. I couldn’t manage both stores so I had to let the Eastside store go.”
“I do like the location too,”she says. “I feel like it’s very central to Los Angeles. You are closer to everything: if I need to go to Hammer or LACMA or MOCA or a friend’s gallery, I’m here. I live in Silver Lake which can be a trek but it does feel like a good community here. We definitely have regulars who will walk over and get gifts from the neighborhood. It really feels like a little neighborhood.”
“We regularly get celebrities too,”she adds. “They’re an eclectic bunch. It’s so funny.”
Carla is excited to continue on with Plastica and has a few ideas for making the store even better. “I’ve always been an organizer,”she says. “I’ve been doing that on the side of the store. We offer a lot of things you wouldn’t get at The Container Store: we have aesthetic, nice things to help you organize. I’m going to open up an angle of the store that offers a service to help residents in stylish rearranging. It’s not interior design but personal organizing.”
“I’m merging that with the store,”she says with a nod. “I have to figure out how to squeeze it together. Both are so much a part of me! As is tennis. These things need to congeal!”
DEFINING THE STREET
“I see West 3rd Street as a thoroughfare between two main streets, Fairfax and La Cienega. Every block between those two main streets has such a good variety of gift shops and clothing stores and restaurants. West 3rd Street has things that get people out of their house and into the community. Those three ingredients—gifts, clothing, and restaurants—are what make it almost like a walking district. People can park and get out and spend the day. It’s also so close to institutions like LACMA. You can do a fun Saturday here. It’s not a hundred percent congealed but it’s nice.”
WHERE THEY GO
“We go to Joan’s On Third a lot. It’s so convenient and delicious. I love Son Of A Gun. They’re great. I love Noodle Stories: they have beautiful clothing. I really love South Willard because they have such a tight angle in the art scene. Simplethings is great for lunch too.